Since the new government came to power, the prices for alcohol and cigarettes has risen to an unbelievable level. Alcohol is priced like in Denmark and their cigarettes are even more expensive than back home. The issue with making laws like this, is that the people of Sri Lanka won’t smoke less or drink less. They’ll just find new ways of getting what they want and the government then won’t have any clue about how much is actually consumed.
Illegal cigarettes are coming into the country through the harbour of Colombo, and is then sold on the black market. By a little help from a friend we managed to collect two cartons of cigarettes from the harbour, transported all the way to us for half the price as they normally costs, which is 1000 Rupees or 8 USD for the cheapest cigarette packet. Great for us, we now have enough cigarettes for our trip, but this is not as easy as it sounds for the locals. If a local gets cought by the police having a foreign cigarette in their hand, they can really get in trouble. They will even have to bribe the police or take their time in jail. For a cigarette!
The solution they’ve come up with for alcohol is of course to make it themselves. Far into the jungle in the mountains, locals are making homebrewn moonshine. The moonshine is in singalese called Kasibu, or also referred to as jungle arrack. When we asked locals about Kasibu, they will look around worried and make sure no one heard that we asked about the highly illegal local moonshine. They’ll often also laugh loudly when no one is around and ask if we where okay after drinking it.
Arrack is the name of their local official alcohol made out of coconut, fermented into an alcohol. You will find a huge variety of arrack in the liquor stores and it’s difficult to keep track of which you’ve tried or not.
We where invited to a family party in a small mountain village, where the people from the village and friends where gathered. This type of party was called a ”big girl party” and we found out by telling locals about it afterwards that we where apparently very lucky to attend to this type of party. A big girl party, is when the girl gets her first period and the family celebrates that she’s now a woman. They are having a big party with music, dance, cake and food, that goes on the whole day and everyone they know is invited.
They asked us to stay and drink with them and then Kasibu came on the table. This was the first time we saw Kasibu. Kasibu is very illegal and are being drinked secretly away from cities and towns. The smell reminded us of portwine, but the taste was very different, like a fermented fruit juice, not murky in the looks but with a clear red colour - Quite tasty! This makes sense because Kasibu is made of Sri Lankas different fruits like Papaya, Mango and Jackfruit and fermented into a strong liqour. The local men drank plenty, playing drums and sang all night and got so drunk they couldn’t stand on their feet. Sri Lankan men doesn’t really have a limit when they first start drinking. It was a great experience for us, but watch out. Because Kasibu is homebrewn it can also be of very different qualities, and you never know what you get. We where lucky to get a good quality that didn’ t make us vomit all night. Some of their homemade brews can be really risky to drink and giving you a hard time.
This was a great experience for us. See how the village people in the mountains gather and celebrate like this. And to the same party we met the manager who works at the local tea factory, Halpewatte, who invited us to the tea factory to get a special tour. This you will hear about later on in our tellings.